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(The Center Square) – Certificate of Need applications have dropped considerably since a peak in 2004 despite Tennessee population growth, according to a report from Beacon Center of Tennessee.

There were 122 applications in 2004 as opposed to just 36 in 2021 and 18 in 2022, according to the report.

Certificate of need laws were mandated by the federal government in 1974 and regulate how many medical facilities are available in an area and what services they provide in an effort to reduce consumer costs. Even though Congress later eliminated the CON requirement in 1987, many states retained them.

The report showed that around one in five CON applications over the past 20 years did not receive approval.

“Many facilities have never opened their doors or expanded to serve some of the state’s most vulnerable communities,” Beacon Center’s report said. “They were outright rejected, their permits expired, or they never risked the enormous investments of time and money to navigate this onerous and risky application process. In fact, if we repealed all of Tennessee’s current hospital CON laws, there could be up to 63 more hospitals in the state, with 25 located in rural areas.”

Of the areas where CON requests have been denied since 2000, 16% have been in the Chattanooga/Cleveland area, 11% were in the Knoxville/Morristown/Sevierville region and 10% were in Johnson City/Kingsport.

Meanwhile, 8% each were in Memphis and Jackson/Brownsville while 9% of the denied applications were in Nashville/Davidson/Murfreesboro/Franklin.

“Based on the proposed project’s home county, more than 5.5 million Tennesseans were denied increased access to healthcare services,” the report said. “These projects represented more than $733.6 million in direct investment into Tenneessee’s local communities.”

Staff Reporter

Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies.